RANGOON — The chairman of a lending firm said the business would return 1.57 billion kyats transferred to it from regional development funds under the previous government.
Chairman of Shwe Thukha Microcredit Association, U Kyi Tun, who also chairs Magwe Division Development Foundation, said the association would return the money “raised as capital” for the company.
“We have given loans to people with that money, and we have to ask them to pay them back,” he said. “I have verbally told this to the secretary of Magwe divisional government.”
He added that the money would be repaid as soon as the association gets it back from borrowers, but that it was “difficult to set a time frame” for the repayment.
Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun of Magwe’s Pwintbyu Township asked Parliament in May 2016 about the alleged embezzlement of regional development funds collected as taxation from small-scale oil producers in Magwe Division by the previous divisional government.
The Bureau of Special Investigations under the Ministry of Home Affairs launched an investigation and found that missing funds amounted to 7.5 billion kyats, and more than 3 billion kyats were spent on then-ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
The Union government sent letters dated April 18 to former Magwe Division chief minister U Phone Maw Shwe and chairman of the Magwe Division Development Foundation and Shwe Thukha Microcredit Association U Nyi Tun asking them to answer for the missing funds.
The letter instructed the two to return 1.7 billion kyats, four cars, a digger, and two boats donated to the USDP through the Magwe Division Development Foundation, as well as more than 1.57 billion kyats of funds transferred to the microcredit association.
USDP spokesperson Dr. Nandar Hla Myint denied allegations that U Phone Maw Shwe misappropriated more than 1.7 billion kyats from the divisional development funds.
“In fact, U Phone Maw Shwe donated nothing to the USDP,” he told The Irrawaddy. “We have already said officially that he gave nothing to us and we had accepted nothing. But, time and again we were targeted, and this tarnishes the dignity of our party. We will release a statement soon to respond.”
He also urged the NLD government to question the former Magwe Division chief minister and handle the situation according to the law as soon as possible.
Dr. Nandar Hla Myint highlighted that U Phone Maw Shwe was also chairman of the USDP’s Magwe Division chapter while he was chief minister.
“I think he spent those funds on regional development works in line with his authority as a chief minister over financial affairs,” he said.
“It is only U Phone Maw Shwe and the previous divisional government who can answer this. If the current government is not happy with this case, it can summon U Phone Maw Shwe. Then, this can be settled.”
Magwe Division chief minister Dr Aung Moe Nyo told The Irrawaddy that legal action would be taken against the former government if missing funds were not returned.
“Yes, they have denied it,” he said. “But it is not a rumor, and it is not the speculation of journalists. It was found by the Bureau of Special Investigations under the Ministry of Home Affairs, so it is undeniable,” said the chief minister.
While the USDP has denied the allegation, former chief minister U Phone Maw Shwe has not made any public comment on the matter.